For International World AIDS Day on 1 December, our ICS volunteers in Malawi have conducted three interviews within the communities that they are volunteering in showcasing strong individuals that are living with HIV. HIV is no longer a death sentence, with many people living with HIV all over the world leading a normal, healthy life. Here are their #storiesofstrength.
Zelina is 40 years old and lives in Malawi. She has been living with HIV since 2007.
Zelina was first diagnosed in 2007 when her doctor did a routine blood test. The doctor did not fully explain what HIV was and just advised her that her immune system would fail and that she should begin treatment. Zelina did not begin treatment straight away, instead delaying treatment for a further five years, until 2012, when she became pregnant. This was mainly due to her lack of understanding surrounding her disease and also because she feared her community’s reaction, as there was a lot of stigma attached to HIV and AIDS at that time and she feared exclusion.
Zelina did not realise how HIV is transmitted, believing that it could only be passed from males to females during intercourse, so she did not tell her fiancé and they married as planned. As a result her husband is now also HIV positive, as is their first child, born in 2008. She wishes she had been told more about HIV, especially so she could have avoided transmitting it to her husband and child.
However, due to the antiretroviral treatment that Zelina began taking in 2012, their second child was born in 2013 free from HIV, and Zelina and her husband are living healthy lives.
Zelina does not let HIV change her life, choosing instead to live as normal a life as possible.
Interview conducted by ICS Team SPRODETA
Ms Manada’s story
On Monday 23 November, three ICS volunteers working alongside Tovwirane HIV/AIDS Organisation Mzuzu, interviewed Ms Manada, who has been HIV positive for over 10 years. There was very little information available about HIV and AIDS when Ms Manada was diagnosed and she suffered due to the stigma attached to the virus. Ms Manada now lives a healthy life and does not get sick often. She now works as a Health Surveillance Assistant. This is her story of strength.
In 2004, I got very sick and had a lot of diseases so went for testing. There was a lot of stigma attached to being diagnosed with HIV and I was worried about what my friends and family would say. As soon as I was diagnosed, I developed meningitis and was very poorly.
I felt very sorry for myself and I had pity for myself. In those days, whenever you were tested positive, a lot of people would say 'oh you are going to die'. I was very worried, but as time passed, I started to settle down and thought, 'okay it happens'. Now I am strong, I very rarely get sick because I take my ARVs (antiretrovirals) and follow the advice given by the hospital and the counsellors.
There was not much information on HIV and AIDS when I was diagnosed. People living with HIV should always take their ARVs and should not go to herbalists. I advised people not to listen to the herbalists and the churches and told them that they must carry on taking their ARVs, but they didn't, and now four of them have passed away as a result.
Interview conducted by ICS Team Kusintha
Ms Chirwa’s story
On Monday 23 November, three ICS volunteers working alongside Tovwirane HIV/AIDS Organisation Mzuzu, interviewed Ms Chirwa who has been HIV positive for over 10 years. Ms Chirwa explained that there was very little information available about HIV and AIDS when she was diagnosed and she suffered due to the stigma attached to the virus. However she now lives a healthy life and hardly gets sick. Ms Chirwa works as a Health Surveillance Assistant. This is her story of strength.
I was diagnosed in 2001. I was a sex worker and drank a lot of beer. A lot of people that I knew had died, so I decided to get tested. I was very sick with heavy coughing. I got tested at the same time as two other men. One of the men fainted when he found out that he was HIV positive and the other committed suicide by taking rat poison. But I was strong and I didn't let it affect me to that extent. When I was diagnosed I was able to gain strength from the advice that was given to me by the clinician. I am now healthy and hardly ever get sick, due to the health advice that I was given.
Before I was diagnosed, no information was given to me. It wasn’t spoken about a lot. You should not go out drinking recklessly, should eat nutritious food and always use a condom. A lot of people have died that I know due to the information given by the herbalists and the churches. They are told that if they really have faith they don't need to take their antiretrovirals. The herbalists tell them that they are healed and should stop taking their medication. People shouldn't take advice unless it has been verified by doctors.
Interview conducted by ICS Team Kusintha